Your Picks: Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books
More than 5,000 of you nominated. More than 60,000 of you voted. And now the results are in. The winners of NPR's Top 100 Science-Fiction and Fantasy survey are an intriguing mix of classic and contemporary titles. Over on NPR's pop culture blog, Monkey See, you can find one fan's thoughts on how the list shaped up, get our experts' take, and have the chance to share your own.
A quick word about what's here, and what's not: Our panel of experts reviewed hundreds of the most popular nominations and tossed out those that didn't fit the survey's criteria (after — we assure you — much passionate, thoughtful, gleefully nerdy discussion). You'll notice there are no young adult or horror books on this list, but sit tight, dear reader, we're saving those genres for summers yet to come.
So, at last, here are your favorite science-fiction and fantasy novels. (And a printable version, to take with you to the bookstore.)
Young Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, bred to be a genius, is drafted to Battle School where he trains to lead the century-long fight against the alien Buggers.
The Dune Chronicles
Follows the adventures of Paul Atreides, the son of a betrayed duke given up for dead on a treacherous desert planet and adopted by its fierce, nomadic people, who help him unravel his most unexpected destiny.
The Foundation Trilogy
A band of psychologists, under the leadership of psychohistorian Hari Seldon, plant a colony to encourage art, science, and technology in the declining Galactic Empire and to preserve the accumulated knowledge of humankind.
On the plane home to attend the funerals of his wife and best friend, Shadow, an ex-con, encounters an enigmatic stranger who seems to know a lot about him. When Shadow accepts the stranger's job offer, he finds himself plunged into a perilous game with the highest of stakes: the soul of America itself.
The Wheel Of Time Series
At 13 volumes and counting, this sweeping — some would say sprawling – richly imagined epic chronicles the struggle between servants of the Dark One and those of the champion of light known as the Dragon Reborn.
Gibson's groundbreaking debut novel follows Case, a burned-out computer whiz, who is asked to steal a security code that is locked in the most heavily guarded databank in the solar system. A seminal work in the genre that would come to be known as cyberpunk.
The Kingkiller Chronicles
This suspenseful coming-of-age story folllows Kvothe as he recounts his transformation from a magically gifted young man into the most notorious wizard, musician, thief and assassin in his world.
The Dark Tower Series
Roland, the world's last gunslinger, tracks an enigmatic Man in Black toward a forbidding dark tower, fighting forces both mortal and other worldly on his quest.
The Sandman Series
Gaiman originally told his tale of Morpheus, the Dream King, whose interactions with mortals rarely end well, and whose fractious extended family includes the personifications of Death, Despair, Desire and Destiny, in a 75-issue comic book series over several years; the hugely influential series is now collected in ten trade volumes.
At a time when the number of Dragonriders has fallen too low for safety and only one Weyr trains the creatures and their riders, the Red Star approaches Pern, threatening the planet with disaster.
The Amber Chronicles
Zelazny's tales of Corwin, prince of the "true world" of Amber (of which our Earth is merely a shadow) and his son Merlin, a magic-user/computer hacker, have spanned several decades. Amid the eternal struggle between Order and Chaos, Zelazny delights in tossing in allusions to Shakespeare, the Tarot and quantum mechanics.
Edding's five-volume epic fantasy follows young farmboy Garion as he is drawn into a quest for a stolen mystical orb, and the rich world of prophecy and power that surrounds it.
In a world where special magic users called Allomancers can employ metals to enhance their physical and mental abilities, a young thief discovers her destiny and sets out to overthrow the Lord Ruler.
The Left Hand Of Darkness
While on a mission to the planet Gethen — a world whose inhabitants can change their gender — earthling Genly Ai is sent by leaders of the nation of Orgoreyn to a concentration camp. The exiled prime minister of the nation of Karhide tries to rescue him.
The Hyperion Cantos
Seven pilgrims undertake a voyage to the world of Hyperion — dominated by a fearsome and mysterious creature called the Shrike — where they hope to learn the secret that will save humanity.
The Forever War
Drafted into the ranks of Earth's interstellar warriors, private William Mandella finds his fight against the Taurans secondary to the side-effects of faster-than-light space travel, which affects the rate at which he ages.
The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever
In this first trilogy, reclusive, guilt-ridden writer Thomas Covenant finds himself transported to a magical realm where he is hailed as a hero who wields powerful magic — and where he finds his leprosy miraculously cured. Ultimately, he must defeat the malevolent Lord Foul to save the Land — and his own sanity.
The Riftwar Saga
Evil entities have opened a rift in the fabric of space-time, plunging the world of Medkemia into peril. As the battle between Order and Chaos threatens to engulf everything, reluctant wizard Pug is the only hope of a thousand worlds.
The Sword Of Truth Series
Young Richard Cypher gradually embraces his destiny as the Seeker of Truth, and sets out to stop the evil that others would unleash.
In a novel set in an indefinite, futuristic, post-apocalyptic world, a father and his young son make their way through the ruins of a devastated American landscape, struggling to survive and preserve the last remnants of their own humanity.
The Sword of Shannara Trilogy
Over the course of three novels, several generations of the Ohmsford family find themselves retrieving magical artifacts in the desperate hope to fight evil.
The Conan The Barbarian Series
Howard's original set of interlinked stories featuring his muscle-bound warrior represents a classic kind of sword-and-sorcery fantasy adventure in all its pulpy, richly imaginative glory.
The Farseer Trilogy
An wily assassin plies his trade while his uncle the Prince confronts attackers who are turning people into emotionless, zombie-like "Forged ones."
The Legend Of Drizzt Series
Drizzt Do'Urden, a Dark Elf, finds adventure, peril and awesome magical power as he confronts the underground civilization of the evil and treacherous matriarchal race of Drow elves.
The Kushiel's Legacy Series
Sold into indentured servitude at the exotic Night Court as a child, Phedre faces a difficult choice between honor and duty as she deals with a world of glittering luxury, conspiracy, sacrifice, and betrayal. Two subsequent trilogies chronicle the adventures of her adopted son and her distant descendant.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
When the carnival comes to town, two boys unearth the terrifying and horrible secrets that lurk within Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show and learn the consequences of wishes, as a sinister and evil force is at work in Green Town, Ill.
The Malazan Book Of The Fallen series
Erickson's densely plotted series jumps around in time to chronicle the vicissitudes of the sprawling Malazan Empire, a place of shifting alliances, mysterious mage guilds, assassin gods and military uprisings.
The Culture Series
A science-fiction series by the author of the Wasp Factory features a symbiotic human and machine society that is engaged in a galaxy-wide battle to the death between the Idrians, who fight for their faith, and the Culture, which defends its right to exist.
The Codex Alera Series
In the land of Alera, where people bond with the furies — elementals of earth, air, fire, water, and metal — young Tavi struggles to cope with his lack of magical talent, until his homeland erupts into conflict between rebels and loyalists and Tavi discovers that he holds the key to his realm's survival.
The Book Of The New Sun
In the distant future, after the sun has cooled and dimmed, the disgraced torturer Sevarian recounts his hard-fought rise to absolute power.
The Outlander Series
Hurtled back through time more than 200 hundred years to Scotland in 1743, Claire Randall finds herself in the midst of a world torn apart by violence, pestilence and revolution, and haunted by her feelings for a young soldier.
The Mars Trilogy
On a mission to provide Mars with an Earth-like atmosphere, John Boone, Maya Toitovna, Frank Chalmers and Arkady Bogdanov meet stiff resistance from those who will fight to the death to prevent Mars from being changed.
The Xanth Series
In Anthony's pun-besotted magical realm (which is shaped a lot like Florida), every human is born with a unique magical ability, which they use navigate a landscape full of dragons, goblins, harpies, centaurs and all manner of eldritch creatures.
The Vorkosigan Saga
In a human colony on one of a series of planets connected by wormholes, a young man who suffers from a series of physical disabilities (the result of an assassination attempt on his royal parents) grows up to become a powerful military leader.
The Space Trilogy
Philologist Edwin Ransom travels to Mars and Venus, and makes a series of dramatic discoveries about Earth's place in the solar system – and the nature of a threat it unwittingly faces.